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Ukraine: Situation In Bakhmut Is "Dynamic And Intense"; Firms Police: Shooter Was 28-Year-Old White Woman; Rep. Bob Freeman (D-TN) Discusses About The Nashville Mass Shooting; Nashville PD: Female Shooter Kills 3 Children, 3 Adults At School. Aired 3-3:30p ET

Aired March 27, 2023 - 15:00   ET


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Okay, folks. We'll be back again before four o'clock, okay? Thank you.

BORIS SANCHEZ, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: That was a press briefing from Nashville police and other officials in that city as six people, three of which were kids, are dead from another shooting rampage in the United States.

But this mass shooting while obviously all too common is also very rare. Nashville police confirming they have identified the shooter, a 28-year-old white woman who forced her way into The Covenant School, a small private school inside a church that the chief of police in Nashville, Chief John Drake, says appears at one point was apparently a student at that school.

BIANNA GOLODRYGA, CNN HOST: Yes, they were led to her by what he said was a vehicle parked nearby that they wouldn't go into further detail about her as this investigation is just underway. Our police say that she killed three adult staffers as well as those three children and students.

The first call came in at 10:13 am local time. And police say within 15 minutes of the call, the attacker was dead.

CNN's Dianne Gallagher is tracking all the latest developments for us.

And Dianne, police just gave an update, all of the families of those killed have been notified. They've identified all of the victims and for now they are not releasing the names.

DIANNE GALLAGHER, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: That's right. And also, Bianna, it was noticeable that they said they did not want to release the ages either. We are likely dealing with very young children here as The Covenant School at Covenant Presbyterian Church serves pre K to sixth graders.

And so three of those six who were killed by that 28-year-old shooter, of course, are children. We are talking about young children here that were murdered inside their school which is inside of a church. Now, some of the new information that we learned from the police chief there was again, as you said, this is a 28-year-old white female who they say does live in the Nashville area. The Chief said that there was a car that helped lead them to identifying that suspect, and noting that at one point, although they are so looking into this and investigating this, perhaps she had attended the school, again, a 28-year-old woman. They're still trying to investigate earlier today.

We were told that there is video from the school that they are going through trying to learn more about what happened. It said that she did try to force her way into a side door. Now, according to the initial description of what happened, we're told that it happened on an upper level inside The Covenant School, not in a classroom per se. It was described by the Metro Nashville Police Media representative, Don Aaron, as being a lobby of sorts inside that school.

This is a small school. We're talking just over 200 students, again, from preschool to sixth grade. About 40 to 50 staff members in total, according to Metro Nashville Police there.

Look, they have said that they are still trying again to piece together what happened in this, but they had a five-person team. And, look, there was a lot of talk about how quickly they were able to respond, that 10:13 am call that the shooter was killed after engaging with two police officers by 10:26 am.

So we're talking about less than 15 minutes from that initial call. They say the shooter was dead. They say five-person team responded to this shooting, to engaged on that upper level two officers engaging with the shooter on that upper level.

And again, this is a community they mentioned, they've had these shootings, unfortunately, mass shootings in the area before. I've covered mass shootings in Nashville before. This is something that the Metro Nashville Police Department said that sadly they are very prepared for. And that some of the students were able to quickly respond to this and get out because it is so sad and unfortunate that preschoolers through sixth graders know what to do in this situation, because unfortunately, so many of their parents, their friends, their communities, their schools had to be familiar with it.

It's something that we do know is that because this was a small private school inside a church, there was no school resource officer associated with the police department there. Again, right now they are still investigating and trying to, again, comfort a community that once again has just been destroyed by an absolute tragedy, but something that unfortunately is still very common.

GOLODRYGA: And to that point, Dianne, the police chief noted that some of these students, reminding our viewers, they're as young as four years old at this school, some of them had the wherewithal to escape together. I believe he said it into a separate part of the church as they awaited for first responders. This gives you a sense of once again how we are just letting our children down given that this is sort of a new normal for them in their schools in these drills.


Dianne Gallagher, thank you.

Well, joining us now on the phone is Tennessee State Representative Bob Freeman. He represents the area where the school shooting occurred.

Thank you so much for joining us. Again, as we said to a state senator in the last hour, I'm so sorry that this is happening right now in your community. I'm sorry that we have to speak under these circumstances.

We spoke in the last hour to State Senator Heidi Campbell, who attributed this to just a sick gun culture and said that she had been there with the families of these students at this small school, just 209 students inside the school on any given day.

Talk about your interaction with the community and some of these families and parents of these students there today.

REP. BOB FREEMAN (D-TN): Yes, thank you. Thank you for having me and thank you for covering this today. It's a terrible day here in Nashville.

Yes, you hit it on the head. This is a small school that is part of the community that I represent. And I would wager that everybody in the neighborhood either has attended church there or has a child at school or has a friend that has a child at school.

And just receiving the phone calls from my constituents asking if I knew anything that they hadn't heard if their kid was okay is - excuse me - is not something you want to have to feel the calls for. I've got three young kids, all within the ages of that school and there is a very high likelihood that one of their friends or acquaintance was one of the injured and/or deceased.

All across our city tonight at dinner, we're going to have some tough conversations with our kids and echo what Sen. Campbell said, try to make them understand why we continue to have these things when we have opportunities to stop it and elected officials don't have the courage to do it.

SANCHEZ: Rep. Freeman, on that question, something that popped out at me, reportedly Gov. Bill Lee last year - in June of 2022 following the massacre in Uvalde - signed an executive order to harden schools, to actually try to prevent the very thing that we are witnessing today. And yet that executive order included no new gun restrictions, was that a mistake?

FREEMAN: I think it's clearly a mistake. We continue to act as if there isn't a solution or we don't know what to do and the answer is before us. Other countries have had meaningful impact on gun violence and there's a there's a playbook that we should follow and folks in Tennessee just don't have the courage and the backbone to do it.

GOLODRYGA: I'm at a loss for words as we're watching video. We just had up, I believe, shot by a resident nearby if we can pull that back up for viewers of children walking across the street hand in hand, as people all see the time - see all the time with small children walking on field trips or going to the school bus.

And in this case, these children who look very young in this video are walking away from a crime scene. And something that we heard from the chief mentioning that they're at least taught and they had the intuition to leave their classrooms and go to a different area of the church.

I'm just curious, what are the things you're going to be telling this community and what are they going to be needing as the healing process begins?

FREEMAN: I mean, go back to what you said, I watched that video as well and as that was happening, my wife called me and just broke down in tears. It's unbelievable that our community - as communities across the United States are having to deal with us.

We're going to need answers. We're going to need some comfort to at least move forward to believe that this can't happen again. We're going to need to trust that our kids are safe, you drop your kids off at school, you expect to pick them up at the end of the day and you expect the school and the school system to keep them safe.

That's a pretty low bar to expect from the school system and we've got to do better.

SANCHEZ: And sir, I'm also curious to get your perspective on one of the uncommon aspects of this shooting, typically, when we discuss these all too often horrific crimes, the shooter is a male and he's typically in his early 20s, if not a teenager.


In this case, this was a 28-year-old adult woman. What does that say to you?

FREEMAN: I honestly don't know. But I think like you, I was shocked, and when I heard that it was 28-year-old woman, I actually assumed it would follow the typical playbook of that 20 to late teen male. I hope this is a one off and we don't see more of this. That we don't see more of this, period.

GOLODRYGA: No one wants to say any more of this. We cover it far too frequently. Rep. Freeman, what was your reaction when you heard from the chief there in his description of the shooter, that the only thing they know about her in any sort of affiliation with the school or the church is that she may have been a student?

FREEMAN: Again, I don't - I didn't really had a chance to process that. But the thing that I was impressed with what the chief said was within 15 minutes they responded. The level of training that our Metro Police officers have here to go - to the danger and, again, try to save the lives of as many people as they can was heartwarming to me at some degree to know that these men and women are willing to put their lives at risk for the members of our community.

GOLODRYGA: Yeah. SANCHEZ: I'm not sure if - you obviously have your hands full at the moment, I'm not sure if you were able to listen to President Biden within the last hour making remarks about this from the White House. He was in the East Room for an unrelated event and said that these events are "ripping at the soul of this nation." He called on Congress to act.

But as you previously noted, there does not appear to be much momentum on Capitol Hill for any kind of significant federal gun reform. What's your message to lawmakers at the state and national level about the urgency at which you believe that change needs to take place?

FREEMAN: The reality is that if we are not, as elected officials, creating an environment to better and protect our children, what are we doing. And this should be the most bipartisan issue we should handle. There is got to be a change.

Every time I hear one of these stories, I'm yelling at the TV. We can't - this can't be the - there can't be another one. This has got to be the last one and then there's another one. And we're going to have to have some real bold leaders step up and demand change that people want change. The - your average voter wants change. Children understand there has to be change.

I mean, it's - across the board, everybody understands that something needs to happen. We've got to act. There have been proposals after proposals that get killed by special interest groups. Here in Tennessee, we're seeing an expansion of where you can carry guns, who can carry guns, the lack of a license. People talk about constitutional carry here, we're going the wrong way.

We have got to create an environment that's going to make sure that our kids are safe. And until people start voting people out that aren't doing it, nothing is going to change.

GOLODRYGA: Rep. Bob Freeman, thank you for your time. And I'm so sorry that this has happened to your community, to your home and please take care of those around you who need you right now.

FREEMAN: Thank you. Thank you.

SANCHEZ: Thank you, sir.

We want to bring in a law enforcement voice into this conversation. Joining us now is Charles Ramsey, a former Washington, D.C. Police Chief. He's also a CNN Law Enforcement Analyst. We also have with us a Senior Law Enforcement Analyst, Andrew McCabe, a former FBI Deputy Director. Gentlemen, thank you both for being with us.

Chief, first to you, obviously the thing that stands out in all the details that we're getting early on in this investigation, a 28-year- old woman that the police chief says appears to at one point potentially have been a student at the school. First your impressions on that and then also walk us through what an investigation into her potential motive entails? CHARLES RAMSEY, CNN LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: Well, I have no idea what the motive is. That's part of the investigation. And I certainly don't want to speculate on that. As far as being a former student, she's 28 years old, so that's 15, 20 years ago, perhaps a student. And whether or not that has any connection as to what took place, again, they'll be searching social media. There'll be going through her vehicle as well as car - as well as her home with search warrants to try to find something that would pinpoint the why.


There are some cases where you never really understand why. But that's something that they will definitely be working on and we'll see. I doubt if we get any real information today. It's really going to be very difficult to have any definitive answers this quickly.

GOLODRYGA: I was interesting also to hear that the vehicle nearby led them ultimately to the suspect. But you're right, Chief, this is just the beginning of this investigation. And we're expecting to hear more in the hours and days to come. We're expecting another briefing before 4 pm they said this hour.

Andy, I'm curious what stood out to you from what you heard from these briefings and how this all went down?

ANDREW MCCABE, CNN SENIOR LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: Well, Bianna, one of the things that really jumps out to me are the details that we have about the response, how quickly they were able to get there, how many officers were able to go into the building immediately.

So a five person team that it sounds like they split up three on the first floor and two went up to the second floor. And it was ultimately those two who engaged with and took out the shooter. They had a integrated fire department response with them so they've clearly been doing a lot of training with the tactical folks with fire department representatives who are able to go in with the tactical team and administer first aid to those folks who need it more quickly than they otherwise would be able to do.

So you have really - it looks like - a pretty remarkable response highly trained, very quick and yet we still have this number of casualties. I think it draws a lot of attention to the core of this problem that no matter how good law enforcement gets, they are always behind the shooter. They are there to try to limit damages. They can't possibly prevent these things from happening. So for me, that's a really strong take away from this particular tragedy.

SANCHEZ: Andy, I'm curious to get your response to this argument from Gov. Bill Lee of Tennessee. In our previous conversation with the state representative, I noted he signed an executive order last year after Uvalde that attempted to harden schools as targets - they're soft targets, right? But that executive order included no new gun restrictions. And his reasoning for not pursuing say a ban on assault style weapons was that quote, criminals don't follow laws. What do you make of that argument we hear so often from lawmakers that criminals aren't going to follow the law? MCCABE: Well, Boris, it doesn't really hold any water in the mass shootings like this one and many others we End up having to report on. The statistics are pretty clear. Many - I would say most mass shooters we ultimately find out in the investigation, the - of the aftermath, came across their weapons lawfully or they got them, you know, through the family or some other way that would not have been prohibited.

So this idea that all mass shooters are - have committed some sort of crime and coming across their AR-15s or their assault weapons or their handguns, whatever that might be, is just simply not true. The facts, however, are pretty clear that we have twice almost three times as many guns in this country as the next highest heavily armed gun country on the planet.

We have - you're 18 times more likely to die of a firearm-inflicted homicide in this country than in any other similar well-developed nation on Earth. You're almost 44 times more likely to die of a gun- inflicted suicide in the United States of America than anyplace else.

So all of these societal problems are connected in some way, not entirely, but in some way to the easy, easy access of unbelievably lethal weapons in this country.

GOLODRYGA: One hundred and twenty-nine mass shootings this year alone and we are not even into the month of April yet.

Chief, again, this is all early, but what we did hear from law enforcement was that the shooter and again, she would have graduated from the school or completed this school many, many years ago. But nonetheless, she went through a side door of the church or the school to enter. Does that perhaps raise the speculation that this was pre- planned, that perhaps the school was cased or is it too early to be asking these questions right now?


RAMSEY: Well, I mean, listen, I wouldn't be surprised at all, if it was not pre-planned. In fact, I'd be surprised if it was not pre planned. Because she was a student at the school, she would know entry points and so forth. Whether or not that door was locked or it was a forced entry remains to be seen. That's all part of the investigation.

But she was heavily armed, I mean to assault weapons, a hand gun, I mean you just don't wake up and just suddenly decide to grab your AR- 15 or whatever and a handgun and go shoot some kids at a school. I would think that once they get into this investigation, start going through social media, other evidence they find as they start executing search warrants, they'll find that, there was some thought put into this.

Obviously, this is all speculation because we just don't know. But I just would find it hard to believe that this was a spur of the moment event that took place.

SANCHEZ: We suspect we'll start getting more details in the hours and days to come. For now. Chief Charles Ramsey and Andrew McCabe, please stand by, because our continuing coverage of this deadly school shooting out of Nashville is going to continue. We're also going to have the latest on the President's reaction to today's tragedy.

Stay with CNN, we're back in moments.



SANCHEZ: We're continuing to follow breaking news out of Nashville where police say a 28-year-old woman from that area, shot and killed six people at a private elementary school, three adults and three children.

GOLODRYGA: Let's bring in CNN's Phil Mattingly.

Phil, the President just address this shooting at an event at the White House, once again reiterating his call for the assault weapons ban. What else did he say?

PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Bianna, it is a painfully familiar call, one the President has made repeatedly over the course of his two plus years in office after shooting after shootings, school shootings, grocery store shootings and yet another one today.

And while there is certainly a sense of exhaustion and fatigue with the fact that when the President calls for lawmakers in particular to do more, there are significant limits due to the political dynamics in the U.S. Congress to actually get something done. The President reiterating those calls today, take a listen.


JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: It's heartbreaking. A family's worst nightmare.

And I want to commend the police who responded incredibly swiftly - within minutes - to end the danger.

We're monitoring the situation really closely - Ben, as you know - and we have to do more to stop gun violence. It's ripping our communities apart, ripping the soul of this nation - ripping at the very soul of the nation. And we have to do more to protect our schools so they aren't turned into prisons.

The shooter in this situation reportedly had two assault weapons and a pistol - two AK-47. So I call on Congress, again, to pass my assault weapons ban. It's about time that we begin to make some more progress.

But there's more to learn. But I just wanted to send my concern and hearts out to so many parents out there.


MATTINGLY: Guys, I think, as a parent, I think all parents can speak for the horror of these types of moments watching this play out and can't even imagine what the parents of the three children who were killed are feeling at this moment. The President also talking about those who were in the building that experience this that were able to escape alive and the mental toll that takes on them, people paying attention to that as well.

Now, as for legislative prospects, two critical points here, we don't know exactly what happened or if anything that's being at least proposed on the legislative front would prevent that. But the President has been very clear that despite passing bipartisan gun safety legislation last Congress, despite a series of executive orders that he wants more done in particular, bringing back the assault weapons ban that used to be in place.

The reality, of course, and White House officials are keenly aware of this, they simply do not have the votes to do that, certainly, with the Republicans holding the majority in the House. But White House officials saying the President is still going to continue to push for that, particularly in the wake of moments like this, guys.

SANCHEZ: Yes, the President reiterating how long he'd been working specifically on this issue with Sen. Ben Cardin who referred to in that sound bite.

Phil Mattingly, thank you so much for that update from the White House.

GOLODRYGA: Today's shooting at Covenant School in Nashville now part of the tragic list of statistics tracked by the Gun Violence Archive. There have been 129 mass shootings across the U.S. so far this year.

SANCHEZ: Keep in mind, in 2022, the U.S. saw its 100th mass shooting on March 19th. The previous year, we hit that grim milestone in late March as well. So if you're keeping track of the math were on record are surpassed what we saw the last two years.

From 2018 to 2022, the U.S. didn't see a hundred mass shootings until May. The gun violence archive which like CNN, tracks these things that defines a mass shooting as an incident in which at least four people are shot, excluding the shooter.

We want to bring in Abene Clayton. She's the lead reporter on the Guns and Lies in America Project for The Guardian.

Abene, thank you so much for sharing your time and expertise with us.

One of the things that we've reiterated is unusual about this case is the fact that it breaks the mold of the typical school shooter. We're used to seeing young in their late teens, early 20s white men in this case it is an adult, a 28-year-old white woman, what do you make of that?

ABENE CLAYTON, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: The first thing that came to mind was a bit of deja vu, honestly.